02/11/2013 17:46 EST | Updated 04/13/2013 05:12 EDT

Residential school survivor says compensation process failed him

A residential school survivor says the Independent Assessment Process failed him and other students.

John Mantla, from Behchoko, N.W.T., says he experienced severe physical abuse at school but his claim for compensation was denied.

That's the case for 10 per cent of all IAP applicants.

The process is a way for former residential school students who suffered abuse at the schools to get compensation. It’s separate from the Common Experience Payment, but the IAP is for more serious claims of sexual and physical abuse.

Mantla says his three sisters and two brothers got paid and he doesn't understand why his experience of abuse was treated differently.

At the age of seven, Mantla says he was taken from his home and sent to residential school in Fort Simpson, N.W.T.

While attending La Pointe Hall in November 1967, Mantla says a priest intentionally hit him with a hockey stick. He was hospitalized for a month and his nose and eye were permanently damaged.

Four other survivors and a doctor confirmed his story, but remembering the details is a struggle for Mantla.

“Because it's way back over forty years, and when you’re young back then, you don't remember that kind of stuff."

He says that’s the reason his application was denied.

Unlike the Common Experience Payment process, the IAP is built on court rules. Survivors don't only have to prove they went to residential school; they also have to prove they were abused.

Lawyer Steven Cooper has represented former students.

"Your memory has to be sufficient enough that the adjudicator both believes you and feels that they can rely upon you, on the evidence, so they can make a decision on whether you were injured or assaulted or abused in a way that's compensable, " Cooper said.

Mantla was sent to a doctor in Calgary who assessed his memory and condition. The doctor’s report said it was highly likely that he suffered mild to moderate brain damage as a result of the injury from the hockey stick.

The doctor also said Mantla likely suffered permanent memory loss as a direct result of the incident.

Compensation would help break cycle, survivor says

The average Independent Assessment Process compensation amount is $125,000.

Mantla says that money would have helped him break what he calls a cycle.

"It affects my kids. Because of alcoholism, none of them graduated."

Mantla says the injury and his time at residential school has defined his life. Because of his criminal record, he cannot get a job anywhere the public is involved.

"It doesn't seem to go away. There's alcohol involved, there's jail involved, there's criminal charges involved. There's going to treatments, but still it doesn't help. It stays in your head."

Mantla has seen a psychologist but he says it hasn’t helped either. That's why he went through the Independent Assessment Process.

"Nobody's going to talk about it. We are too ashamed. We are too ashamed to talk about it," he said.

“You're going to die with it."

A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former residential school students.

The next national event for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be in Montreal in April.